How robots can help you overcome chronic talent shortages

Will the growing use of robots and automation put humans out of work? This is a question that comes up continually. But as global talent shortages make it increasingly difficult to find qualified workers for some positions, non-human resources can be a suitable alternative – and even help support their human counterparts.

The Robotics Revolution

While robotics is not new in the manufacturing industry – just consider how robots have long been used for repetitive assembly work –its use is increasing in this sector as well as others. This is particularly true for companies struggling to find talent for their chronically vacant positions. For example, homebuilders facing shortages of construction specialists may opt to use an automated bricklayer. We’re also seeing an increased use of robotic self-service kiosks in fast-food restaurants, where turnover is common. Even accounting businesses like Deloitte, EY, and PwC reportedly leverage artificial intelligence to accelerate tax work.

Aging populations in certain parts of the world are another factor that is impacting the broader adoption of robotics and automation, especially in countries like Japan and Germany, where a shrinking working-age population is creating significant talent shortages. As a result, companies in such countries increasingly leverage robotics to perform the jobs they’re unable to fill with people.

Rather than viewing robots as the competition to human workers, we should focus on how they can actually create more efficiency and better experiences for employees. After all, companies plagued by talent shortages may rely on their workers to work overtime and take on additional responsibilities, leading to fatigue and stress. By filling talent gaps with robotics, businesses may be able to achieve greater efficiency while supporting their human talent.

According to Randstad Sourceright’s 2019 Talent Trends survey, 83% of talent leaders and C-suite executives say that robotics will have as much, if not more, influence on their business in the next year. This shows a significant increase from when the question was asked in 2016, when just 68% held that view.

So which job types would be most affected by the growing use of robotics? Survey respondents report that IT and technical positions are most at risk (35%), followed by marketing (33%) and sales (31%).

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Make the Case for Investing in Robotics

While these results show that the rise of robotics and automation is  acknowledged more by leaders than in the past, the question remains: How can talent leaders adjust their workforce strategies in light of this ongoing shift? The best approach may be a total talent acquisition model that includes robotics. Such a strategy will help businesses look at all available resources to perform the work needed, whether human or robot, and determine the most efficient work arrangement.

Despite the benefits of using robots to fill roles typically held by humans, convincing business leaders to embrace such a strategy can be challenging. The key is to adopt a long-term view in determining how automation can help fill certain vacancies, while accounting for the associated costs of technology implementation.

Equally important is a focus on your people. Transparency is important when it comes to your employer brand. Assure those who aren’t being replaced that their jobs are being enhanced by these investments. And consider how you can offer upskilling or outplacement for those whose roles may be made redundant.

Whether your company seeks to benefit from the efficiencies of automation or simply wants to fill those roles in which talent is in short supply, robotics can be the answer.

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JoAnne Estrada

JoAnne Estrada
JoAnne Estrada is global head of contingent workforce solutions for Randstad Sourceright's Talent Innovation Center. She can be reached at joanne.estrada (at) randstadsourceright (dot) com.

JoAnne Estrada

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